The Creative Mind by Sandeep Silas

THE CREATIVE MIND

I am the creative mind, the Creator’s gift
Do I ever know who I am going to chose

And what I am going to make him write, propound, discover, or invent
Does it unfold on its own
Is it a gift from the heavens?
Or do I dig it from the womb of the earth

Sometimes it falls like the rain
Soaking me through and through
At times it is a boat, taking me on a sail to phantom lands
Some ways are those of a tempest, ripping everything off
Yet maintaining a calm in the eye of the storm
Many times in history it was a cloudburst and all the accumulated burden fell at once upon the paper

I have been doing it in the past
I am at it in the present
I will be in the future
I don’t know whether what I think and ink shall power revolutions or bring peace, or advance scientific discovery
I don’t care whether they will hate me or love me for it
Who writes for awards?
You do it because you have to do it, like you are born with a pen in the mouth
Ha, I miss the silver spoon though

In the gospel it is written, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” !
This is the Alpha and the Omega
The creative mind is the mind blessed by God
Power does not flow from the barrel of a gun
It flows from the subtlety of the Word

I became Hobbes, when I told you about the “war of every man against every man”, and asked you to naturally seek peace
I lived in Locke, and wrote the theory of the mind, defined tabula rasa, gave you the concepts of identity and self
I was in the head of Rousseau, when I wrote “Men are born free, yet everywhere are in chains “, gave you the Social Contract, say democracy
I was with Voltaire when I defended freedom of religious and political thought, and handed to you the power of Reason
I was with Newton when I revealed the Laws of Motion
I permeated Pasteur, and advanced the medical sciences
Galileo saw through me the understanding of the World
I became Einstein and defined the theory of relativity
I made Curie discover radiation, Otto Hahn discover nuclear fission
I’ve led you like Aristotle, Faraday and Fleming of the penicillin
I’ve been with you always

Michelangelo celebrated me as he chiseled the Pietà and painted the Sistine Chapel
Mona Lisa smiles because I gave the mystique look to her eyes through Leonardo da Vinci
Van Gogh brought The Starry Night to life and the Sunflowers to bloom as he was captivated by me
Rembrandt created The Night Watch, as I conceptualized
Shakuntala and Hansa Damyanti became immortalized as I held the brush of Raja Ravi Verma
I have given my best to more like Picasso, Monet, Amrita Sher-gil and Husain
Many more have excelled because they nourished me

When I became joyous, I gave Mozart, the ‘Night Music’ symphonies

I rejoiced as a child when Schumann wrote Caranaval music, ‘Scenes from Childhood’
Chopin, made me his angel and got the Sonatas
Haydn, looked up to me and found his ‘Surprise’ and ‘God of Life’
Even when Beethoven became deaf, I blessed him with ‘Allegretto’

It was not the choice of Columbus to discover America
Nor of Vasco da Gama to discover India
Alexander did not come of his own to meet his greatness
Neither did Ashoka renounce war of his own volition
I, the creative mind, was all the time living in their minds
I was with Martin Luther King Jr. and gave him the speech of the Dream
I powered Gandhi’s resolve to make India independent of the colonial yoke

I have triumphed in the writings of the Sufi saints
I was within Bulleh Shah, when he coined “Bulleya ki jaana main kaun” (Bulleya, to me, I am not known)
I lived with Rumi, as he said, “I am like heaven, like the moon, like a candle by your glow; I am all reason, all love, all soul, by your soul”
I celebrated Kahlil Gibran
I powered Montaigne’s works’
I rejoiced in William Shakespeare, Tennyson, Yeats, Byron, Bacon, Wordsworth, Milton, Keats, Browning and Chaucer
Where all I’ve been all through the evolution of the world, the thought, the philosophy and the Word

Where all I will be is my choice and not yours
I will fill the ones who deserve me
Yet, a little bit of me will be given to each one of you
It will be your purity of emotion, passion, and soul to attain me fully
I AM…

(Copyright: Sandeep Silas)

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WHAT TO EXPECT AND ASK ? BY SANDEEP SILAS

WHAT TO EXPECT AND ASK ?

SANDEEP SILAS

Don’t make me so big that I think I own Your Earth

Don’t give me so much that I think I can command the oceans

Don’t place me so high that I forget I am human

Don’t make me so powerful that I am distanced from hungering humanity

Don’t give me all what I ask, lest I forget the struggle and the value of achievement

Let me live with the mountain and the sea in perfect harmony

Let me watch in amusement the flight of birds

Let me eyes think my body is moving with the flying clouds

Let me touch the trees and the green leaves

Let me smell the beautiful flowers, fragrance pervading my soul

Let me feel the warmth of another human hand

Let me not shy away from extending a helping hand

Let me seek shelter in times of trial in You

Let me pray for easing the suffering of others

Let me be a part of You

Make me an instrument of Your will

Your wish to become my path

Your design to become the plan of my life

Your command to be my endeavour

Your presence to be my feeling

Your proximity to be my pride

Your grace to fill my soul

Your holiness to become my divinity

All this I ask and no more

If you think this is the way

May your lips too utter this prayer

(Copyright: Sandeep Silas)

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What goes into the making of your cup of TEA? by Sandeep Silas

What goes into the making of your cup of TEA?

Tea, the cup of multipurpose uses! From political, spiritual discussions to head ache relief, tea is sometimes had just like that, as a tradition of family getting together or public socializing.

Have you ever wondered what time, labour, machine work, packaging that goes into getting you the cup of tea? Or as we once enacted the play, “Tup of Twee !”

 

Bringing you an insight that is worth a watch!

Tea Garden in the Himalayas!

Plucking the tea !

Withering of tea leaves !

Rolling

Drying Process

Sieving

Segregating

Finally, the golden cup of tea!

George Orwell’s eleven “golden” rules for the ultimate tea experience, is a delight for the person who loves his/her cup of tea!

(Quote): “When I look through my own recipe for the perfect cup of tea, I find no fewer than eleven outstanding points. On perhaps two of them there would be pretty general agreement, but at least four others are acutely controversial. Here are my own eleven rules, every one of which I regard as golden:

First of all, one should use Indian or Ceylonese tea. China tea has virtues which are not to be despised nowadays — it is economical, and one can drink it without milk — but there is not much stimulation in it. One does not feel wiser, braver or more optimistic after drinking it. Anyone who has used that comforting phrase ‘a nice cup of tea’ invariably means Indian tea.

Secondly, tea should be made in small quantities — that is, in a teapot. Tea out of an urn is always tasteless, while army tea, made in a cauldron, tastes of grease and whitewash. The teapot should be made of china or earthenware. Silver or Britannia ware teapots produce inferior tea and enamel pots are worse; though curiously enough a pewter teapot (a rarity nowadays) is not so bad.

Thirdly, the pot should be warmed beforehand. This is better done by placing it on the hob than by the usual method of swilling it out with hot water.

Fourthly, the tea should be strong. For a pot holding a quart, if you are going to fill it nearly to the brim, six heaped teaspoons would be about right. In a time of rationing, this is not an idea that can be realized on every day of the week, but I maintain that one strong cup of tea is better than twenty weak ones. All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes — a fact which is recognized in the extra ration issued to old-age pensioners.

Fifthly, the tea should be put straight into the pot. No strainers, muslin bags or other devices to imprison the tea. In some countries teapots are fitted with little dangling baskets under the spout to catch the stray leaves, which are supposed to be harmful. Actually one can swallow tea-leaves in considerable quantities without ill effect, and if the tea is not loose in the pot it never infuses properly.

Sixthly, one should take the teapot to the kettle and not the other way about. The water should be actually boiling at the moment of impact, which means that one should keep it on the flame while one pours. Some people add that one should only use water that has been freshly brought to the boil, but I have never noticed that it makes any difference.

Seventhly, after making the tea, one should stir it, or better, give the pot a good shake, afterwards allowing the leaves to settle.

Eighthly, one should drink out of a good breakfast cup — that is, the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type. The breakfast cup holds more, and with the other kind one’s tea is always half cold before one has well started on it.

Ninthly, one should pour the cream off the milk before using it for tea. Milk that is too creamy always gives tea a sickly taste.

Tenthly, one should pour tea into the cup first. This is one of the most controversial points of all; indeed in every family in Britain there are probably two schools of thought on the subject. The milk-first school can bring forward some fairly strong arguments, but I maintain that my own argument is unanswerable. This is that, by putting the tea in first and stirring as one pours, one can exactly regulate the amount of milk whereas one is liable to put in too much milk if one does it the other way round.

Lastly, tea — unless one is drinking it in the Russian style — should be drunk without sugar. I know very well that I am in a minority here. But still, how can you call yourself a true tea-lover if you destroy the flavour of your tea by putting sugar in it? It would be equally reasonable to put in pepper or salt. Tea is meant to be bitter, just as beer is meant to be bitter. If you sweeten it, you are no longer tasting the tea, you are merely tasting the sugar; you could make a very similar drink by dissolving sugar in plain hot water.

Some people would answer that they don’t like tea in itself, that they only drink it in order to be warmed and stimulated, and they need sugar to take the taste away. To those misguided people I would say: Try drinking tea without sugar for, say, a fortnight and it is very unlikely that you will ever want to ruin your tea by sweetening it again.

These are not the only controversial points to arise in connexion with tea drinking, but they are sufficient to show how subtilized the whole business has become. There is also the mysterious social etiquette surrounding the teapot (why is it considered vulgar to drink out of your saucer, for instance?) and much might be written about the subsidiary uses of tea leaves, such as telling fortunes, predicting the arrival of visitors, feeding rabbits, healing burns and sweeping the carpet. It is worth paying attention to such details as warming the pot and using water that is really boiling, so as to make quite sure of wringing out of one’s ration the twenty good, strong cups of that two ounces, properly handled, ought to represent.” (Unquote)

Reading the tea leaves

Reading the tea leaves has been not only a favourite pastime but, an indulgence of the tea table! I bring to you some pieces from Literature in English those celebrate the tea !

The Portrait of a Lady: “Under certain circumstances,” declares Henry James at the opening of The Portrait of a Lady, “there are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

The Mad hatter’s tea party (1865): “By the middle of the 19th century, the ceremony of tea had become so central to Victorian society that a short-lived periodical called The Anti-Teapot Review parodied so-called “Teapotism”. Lewis Carroll took aim at tea-table tittle-tattle with the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter. “It’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

The Importance of Being Earnest (1894): “Wilde is at his most brilliant when taking the customs of the upper middle classes and subverting them: Algernon’s usurpation of the female tea-table in the opening scene of The Importance of Being Earnest is not just a consummate performance, it’s also a crucial indicator of his decadent aestheticism (something which many critics of the time saw as effeminate). After Algy scoffs all the cucumber sandwiches prepared for Aunt Augusta in the opening scene, the second act revolves completely around a tea scene: Cecily and Gwendolen both assert their engagement to a man named “Ernest”, during which tea descends into an elaborate war of excessive politeness (“Destestable girl! But I require tea!”, muses Gwendolen). At the end of the act, after Algy and Jack have been caught in their masquerades and are left to stew, Algy drowns his sorrows: “I haven’t quite finished my tea yet! And there is still one muffin left.”

The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock (1915):”Prufrock may have measured out his life in coffee spoons, but the crisis of TS Eliot’s groundbreaking poem is actually all about tea: “Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,/ Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?” Of course, as the paralysed Prufrock finds, tea still leaves plenty of time to bottle it – “Time for you and time for me,/ And time yet for a hundred indecisions,/ And for a hundred visions and revisions/ Before the taking of toast and tea.” Needless to say he can’t summon the courage and consoles himself afterwards with the doubt that “After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,/ Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,/ Would it have been worth while …”

And so, let’s have a cup of tea!

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ARKI: The Hidden Gem of Himachal by Sandeep Silas

Many stories are hidden within the layers of Time. What was once a kingdom, is now a fable; what was once a palace, is now ruins; what was once royalty, is now common; what was once a royal emblem, is now part of history.

Such is the story of the once powerful, once feared, once law, once hailed and once bowed down too! Everything fades away in time. Whether it is mighty possessions, unimaginable wealth, human feelings, or awe, or attachments, all, give way to the mighty layer of Time that settles all, as just another page of historical heritage, sung or unsung.

I had heard about this Arki Fort-palace, once the capital of Baghal Kingdom, now in present day Himachal Pradesh. Two hours drive from Shimla about 52 km Arki represents a bygone era. The road is the one going to Bilaspur-Mandi and at Shalaghat one has to take off to the State Highway for the residual portion of the journey. Hills looked dry in the December winter and village hamlets were warped in their humdrum existence. In far off places, nothing new happens. Seasons come and go and people brace again for the next. You grow as much, you sell as much, you make money as much as it suffices for livelihood. Tourists come and go. Some return, some never.

Baghal Kingdom dates back to 1640 AD when it was founded by the Parmars of Rajput clan. The story goes that Rana Ajai Dev, eldest son of Raja Amar Dev of Dhara, Malwa,  undertook a pilgrimmage in AD and on way back from Badrinath Shrine established his own principality of Baghal in Sairi Valley. In 1643 AD Rana Sabha Chand built his capital at Arki, where it has remained till date. The formidable Gurkhas captured the territory in the early 19th Century and Rana Jagat Singh had to live in exile at Nalagarh. Here, comes the Alliance with the British of the local ruling clan, with whose assistance they drove out the Gurkhas and took control of their Kingdom. The British conferred the title of Raja upon Rana Kishan Chand and the State ranked 8th among the Punjab Hill States in order of precedence. Baghal State possessed 311 sq km of territory and sway over 413 villages. In 1893 AD it was allowed to maintain an infantry of 150 and 1 Gun.

I reached the gates and the gatekeeper asked for my visiting card and then went inside the palace premises to seek permission. I had been under the assumption that a Heritage Hotel ran from the palace, but was rudely face to face with a dilapidated structure much under the category of ruins. The erstwhile Durbar Hall and a later building were in a state of preservation but under lock. Where were the famous frescoes that I had come looking for?

Someone greeted me and I found a young handsome man in early thirties come with a girl child in his arms. He introduced himself as Rahul Dev Singh, the youngest scion of the family. His daughter Padmaja Kumari said a shy hello to me. I learned she goes to Play School in Shimla. Rahul was most intrigued by my coming all the way from Shimla just to see the frescoes. I told him that I am a student of History and am most interested in palaces and forts, even though they might present a ruined face. We made off to a great conversation right in the midst of the erstwhile palace with monkeys trying to announce dominion. I asked him about the frescoes and he showed me the arches of the Durbar Hall, which had wall paintings and frescoes, done by artists of that era. I could use a good camera and take photographs he said.  The architecture definitely had Mughal and Rajasthani influence but the art was most outstandingly of the “Pahari School”.

We spoke of current day politics, my service in the bureaucracy, my writings, his lineage, his grandfather who used to hold his Durbar right there in a Hall, the wars his family had fought, the Gurkha occupation of their kingdom, the regaining of it with the help of the British, the ranking of the State amongst the Punjab States, my sons and their field of education, and many other things. I told him of my bloodline from mother’s side going up to a Kingdom of North Bengal. He also told me that they were originally from Malwa. It never seemed that I had met him for the first time and there existed some connection of the past. He told me how his grandfather encouraged the family ladies to cut their hair, learn dance and have a modern lifestyle. Now, he felt he had become a modern traditionalist and also like the common people believe in common superstitions. We laughed as I admitted that I too never cross a path if I see a black cat run across ahead of me. I wait for someone else to do it. We laughed as we have no justification for all this, but still irrationally we keep doing it. Sometimes the commonness of living overtakes us as much as we would consider ourselves to have a royal lifestyle.

Suddenly, he thought he might be holding me back from my exploration so politely took leave, “So, when you finish you will take your leave?”

“Yes”, and many thanks Rahul. If you come to Delhi please come home.”

He disappeared with his lovely daughter inside the palace living portion and I was left to face the ruins in solitude.

The Durbar Hall arches had beautiful frescoes of Goa Port, War Scene, Dagshai, a Cathedral which reminded me of The Vatican, an Indian Fort, Ayodhya, an European port, the port of Daman, warship anchoring at Thalaserry port, etc. The arches had been painted both sides. We get a feeling that the artists had a good impression of Indian and European ports, albeit they did not miss out on the Indian fort and garden. The war scene fresco had been done in very fine lines and showed arrows flying both sides in such detail.

The administrative block to the right of Durbar Hall was overgrown with shrubs and the steps led down to the horse and elephant housing area.

Right in the midst stood a Peepal Tree, magnificent and a witness to all that glory that was once there. Below, it a small temple with a tiny Shivlinga had been built, perhaps by the Home Guards who loved there for a long time.

The view up, to the palace was a telling one, as it took the glance from ruins to a living palace structure. Time, can change many things, but not everything. Far ahead the valley opens to face many mountains placed in a row.

How strange it must feel to face a truth every sight that here was one’s own kingdom and palace and now a different reality. The reality of a peoples’ democracy and a system of choosing a leader through public ballot. I, for one, could go mad with such strange truths, had I to live with them every day of my life.

Rahul’s elder brother Harvashvardhan, is trying to restore the palace premises by way of opening up a Heritage Hotel, which is a great way to preserve and conserve a slice of history for posterity. The grandeur of the days must be re-created and visitors experience how life was lived then and how that memory is preserved now.

The things of the past do shape our future and should be allowed to sweeten our present days.

 

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Chimes of La Gruyeres by Sandeep Silas

India Outbound

Nov-Dec 2014

Chimes of La Gruyeres

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Vallrobe Caves- The underground magic by Sandeep Silas

India Outbound

May-June 2014

Vallrobe Caves

 

 

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The Light Within by Sandeep Silas

THE LIGHT WITHIN

SANDEEP SILAS

I am where the hydrangeas grow
And the rain showers the hills

The whistling thrush sings on my window
A song of love and peace
No matter the lightening, no worry the thunder
There is a time for everyone which shall come on its own

I’ve stopped searching the sky for whispers
I’ve forgotten the feeling of lying on grass
I don’t walk on dew anymore
I am content with the rain that the heavens pour

No more I look for oceans in her eyes
Nor do I wonder what Nostradamus says
The trifling nature of humans is nothing before the might of Time
It was all written in your stars when you were sent to earth
The pleasure and pain
The walks, the falls and the rise again
How people shall pinch your feathers away
When they are envious of your flights
How Brutus will stab his Caesar again
How Shylock will demand his pound of flesh
You are no more in your mother’s womb, my child
You better brave the new world order
The tempests, the stones and the mocks

They come again and again
To spite you and to harm you
They are not imaginary fears
They are the plots of the imperfect
Who have not felt the presence of God
And are afraid not of His mighty sword

Many like Alexander have come and gone
Their ambitions carried away in drops of poison, of their own making
Only the Kookaburra, and the Whistling Thrush remain
To narrate the story of yesteryears
Still they carry on with puffed chests
The airbags, those a mere pin can deflate

I’ve given up chasing butterflies, those hover on blossoms briefly
They will go on living on flowers, sipping sweet nectar
Carrying the pollen unwittingly
To other pastures and foreign lands
I have become the undying witness to the passing time

I know every Achilles has a soft heel
No one lives beyond his time
All pebbles of the river bed, disintegrate slowly
Till they become just sands of Time

I look to the light that lives within
Call it by any name, it is the same
It is the candle of the good deed
It is the fire of the funeral pyre
Choose your light with wisdom and care
You are the Light that lives within

(Written: Shimla: June 9, 2018; 6.05 am to 8.22 am)

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A Bed and a Plough by Sandeep Silas

A Bed and a Plough by Sandeep Silas in “Borough in the Mist”

 

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Mukteshwar- Virgin Song by Sandeep Silas

Where Nature weaves magic in the air; where the Himalayan peaks shine resplendent; where faith lives through a hole in the rocks; where you can walk listening to bird calls and breathe the freshness of mountain breeze; where Jim Corbett made his home; where the breeze sings a virgin song; this is Mukteshwar.

Nestled in the Uttarakhand hills of Nainital District this small town lives still untouched by the influences of the plains. Though barely 350 km from Delhi, it transports a visitor into a unique stillness that is unparalleled and allows peace to blossom in heart. Some hotels look at valleys, some at snow peaks, some get a temple view, some just a forest, so stay wherever because you can walk wherever in this place easily discovering different facets of Nature.

By the time we reached; my friend, a bachelor boy from Delhi, his two cousins and I, it was time for dinner. Searching a hotel was not difficult, it just fell on way. A new construction by an NRI, now settled in Delhi, alone most of the time in Mukteshwar, offered clean rooms and good linen but did not open his room heaters, perhaps because of the concession he offered us, the only people that night in his hotel.

We lit up a bonfire and talked and sang and drank.

The stars were beautiful as ever, twinkling into nursery rhymes, creating the magic tirelessly every night. The Moon, as it rose looked a little too nearer and reddish brown in its ascent. How much love must the stars give to the Earth? How much indulgence must the Moon show to humans? Existentialist questions, those never get to raise their tiny heads amidst the negativity of city life always rise up to the fore and clamour for answers. One of our friends was too involved in stoking the fire. He wanted to see the flames rise high in the cold.

The night was cold, it being January. Dawn was heavenly and the soft rays of the Sun touched everything and made it look like bathed in liquid gold.

Thereafter, I led the group to the former home of Jim Corbett.

He started as a railway Inspector of Permanent Way; went on to become a shooter of maneater tigers and ended up as a wildlife conservationist. What a trajectory his bullet like life took. The view from his bungalow; now a Tourist Rest House, is magnificent. The eye meets a king size view of Himalayan peaks which dwarf all human effort and ambition before them. From end to the other are the peaks of Nanda Kot, Nanda Ghunti, Nanda Devi, Trishul, Panchachuli etc. What more can a man want after this! Days and nights; season after season one can sit here and ponder on Life, God and Truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mountain pathway to the right as we exit this place took us to the cliff where surprisingly sharp rocks jut out into the sky. As usual many lovers have etched their names with designs of heart and arrow on the rocks. Some singles just left their impressions alone.

People climb up the inclining and obliging rock surface, sit and pose for a photograph while barren women engage in a daring display of faith.

There is a round hole in a rock, big enough to take in a human body across. People say that if a barren woman goes across the Chauli ki Jali on Shivratri, she is blessed with a child! Faith makes one do impossible things!

The restaurant down below gave some wise quotes and a half-cooked omelette, which we gulped down sans criticism as we were hungry by then.

One can take long forest walks in the forests at Mukteswar. One can trek from Peora to Mukteshwar or Peora to Almora as well as Binsar to Artola.    If you are a camping type, this is the ideal place for you to experience the camp life, do stargazing and light bonfires.

I like going to villages and talking to the real people who brave the inclement weather and make a living out of very little. There I met Gopuli Devi. When I asked for her husband, she said he is not there. I requested her to tell him on phone that there is a visitor to meet him. “He will not be able to come”, she said. “Why?” I asked. “Because, he is gone to a place from where no one comes back”,  she answered. By then I understood, that he was no more.

I apologized profusely and spoke to her about life with her children; her broken parapet, and the Plum orchard that sustains her family. She told me that someone had poisoned her husband and he died an untimely death. So, jealousy and conceited violence also dwells within an outwardly peaceful looking village society. I was taken aback and hurt as I saw her three children and her lone efforts to keep the family hearth going.

I came back with mixed emotions of man-eaters and conservationists, still lurking around in the shadows of Mukteshwar!

(Text & photographs by Sandeep Silas)

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Seog.., the human story of the Jungle by Sandeep Silas

They say a jungle teaches you life.  There is order in the jungle; there is beauty in the jungle; there is danger in the jungle; there is an originality in the jungle. No animal eats the other without any reason unlike in the human world!

Seog, is a dense forest 30 minutes from Shimla just after Dhalli. A gate beckons you inside. I missed out seeing the statue of the panther and deer on the gate and only saw the birds on the board. There was an option to cycle but the guard coaxed me to trek if I really wanted to enjoy the forests. It was 7.5 km one way, so a 15 km round trek.

Off I went, camera dangling on my chest trying to hear the birds and then strain my eyes to spot them. It was 10 am and already late as the early birds had already caught the worm and went into hiding. Still, I could see a Whistling Thrush and some others.

An insect clinging to a creeper entwining a deodar tree caught my eye as strange but unique!

Two km inside I heard the Barking Deer and looked up the mountain to see a herd passing through the  forests during the day’s activity. Just then some one called and insisted I talk. The deer herd had vanished by then. So I put it on silent mode not to miss out on the sheer experience and pin drop silence of the forests, occasionally broken by bird calls.  Often I found fresh droppings of the deer, tell-tale signs of it having traversed that way, but no luck anymore. So I enjoyed the overwhelming effect created by the Deodars (Cedrus Deodara) and Moru Oak (Quercus Dilatata) trees.   They become home to monkeys, langurs, birds, insects, butterflies and give shade that the sun too cannot pierce. There was not a soul on the trek and I felt like the King of the Jungle.

Once I imagined that our Mogli boy would emerge out of the shadows and show me some of his territory. The boards said that the forests were home to: Black-lored Tit, Rufous Breasted Accentor, Grey Treepie, Rufous Treepie, Jungle Owlet, Red Billed Blue Magpie, Grey Headed Woodpecker, Alexandrine Parakeet, Plumbeous water Redstart, Chestnut tailed Milna, Rufous Sibia, Grey winged Black Bird, Orange flanked Bush Robin, Asian Koel, Black Bulbul, Variegated Laughingthrush, Black Francolin, Blue-capped Redstart, Long Tailed Thrush, Rufous-bellied Niltava, Chestnut Thrush,  Yellow Brested Green Finch, Eurasian Treecreeper, Pink browed Rose Finch, Green backed Tit, Slaty headed Parakeet, Green Pigeon, Yellow Bellied Fantail, Common Hoopoe, Black-throated Tit, Great Himalayan Barbet, Whiskered Yuhina, Scaly-breated Munia, Common Tailor Bird, Common Rose Finch, Blue-throated Barbet, Oriental White-eye, Speckled Piculet, Rusty cheeked Scimitar Babbler, Black headed Jay, Plum headed Parakeet and so on. The list is endless.It goes further into the types of Butterflies, Orchids, Shrubs and Flowering Trees.

 

However, there is a season for everything. So when there are Orchids the trees won’t flower, similarly when the weather is cold the birds and animals prefer to hide and bask in their piece of sunshine.

I walked discovering whatever I could till I came to the end of the trek, where stood a water tank and three huts.

A small temple stood at one side of the huts.

Above this settlement was a Forest Rest House, where no one is allowed during the nights.

Here grew in abundance the yellow Spanish Broom flower (Spartium Junceum). It was a beautiful sight especially when contrasted with the azure blue sky. The best discovery of this trek was this flower called with a Spanish name albeit having the fragrance of a French perfume!

There is a Water Catchment Tank built during the British times at the far end of Seog Trek. It captures mountain spring water and supplies to the city. The pipes are so sturdy that they have not yet been changed!

I saw a village lady whom I wished. She asked me whether I would like to have tea. I said a polite ‘no, thank you’. She again asked me for coffee thinking my taste could be different and supplemented that she makes good coffee. I again said a ‘no thanks’.

Then she offered me Chaaj (Skimmed Milk) to which I said a resounding yes. Neelam, (her name), happily brought fresh Chaaj. I have never had such good chaaj. It was perfect. Then she asked me for lunch.  It definitely was lunch time and there was no possibility of finding food in the jungle. I said yes but on a condition that she takes payment for the meal. She hesitated and said that she does not sell food. I did not mean to insult her hospitality but, knew they were very poor folks. She brought me some dal, kadhi and rice, and I must write that it was the best kadhi-chawal I had ever had. Perhaps, the generosity of the poor adds to the taste of food they serve from their kitchen.

In a while her daughter came. I asked her what the daughter was pursuing. Neelam said, that the daughter is a Graduate, and has done some computer courses, takes examinations but doesn’t get placed in a job.

Kalpana, the daughter, and I, spoke. She was full of enthusiasm and was willing to serve anywhere in the country. The girl demonstrated confidence. Of course, having been brought up in a forest where only 4 people (3 of family) lived, she suffered from communication skills in comparison to the city-bred.

I really felt the worthlessness of our University education, which does confer degrees but cannot lead to a job situation. Sloganeering for election purposes is acceptable but, unless education leads to a dignified lifestyle, it is actually not serving its purpose. The issue deserves deep thought at the highest level. What would Kalpana do in a  situation she does not get a job. Live off her parents, already old and sick? Live in the jungle grazing cows? Fall into a trap? Go to a city like her brother and engage for a job much below her expectations? Or at best find a job, for which she has no aptitude?

The girl was taking competitive examinations regularly, but what kind of guidance can she get in a situation like this where the forest is the only teacher and master.

There are thousands of such stories abounding in the country. There are many Kalpana’s in remote corners of India, who are fighting out with destiny and struggling to assert their existence.

Unless the country is able to provide, look after and fulfill their aspirations, can we call ourselves free?

Neelam, told me that the forest is peopled by six types of panthers, those she has seen. They once also had a leopard eyeing their cat, who sat for a long time before their hut.

I was only expecting birds and deer at the most. My return thereafter was a very careful walk. Each gust of wind that rustled some dry leaves made me look around for a leaping panther. I saw some bamboo made shelters constructed for sighting birds and deer.

Luckily, I came out unscathed by any animal attack, but scarred by Kalpana’s story!

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